Students from NUS Arts and Social Sciences (FASS) will be able to explore social entrepreneurship with the newly launched NUS FASS Social Incubator Programme (SIP). Aimed to provide FASS students with the opportunity to co-develop social advancement and social entrepreneurship programmes, participants will take the lead in running their own social enterprise projects, with supervision and advice from the faculty.
The SIP was made possible by a generous gift of about $154,000 from 81 former Normanton Park residents from the estate’s en bloc sale in October 2017. Together with matching from the government, the total funding comes to some $232,000.
Colonel (Ret.) Sukhvinder Singh Chopra, former Chairman of the Normanton Park Management Corporation Strata Title and its en bloc Sales Committee said that interacting with elderly at the former estate and seeing their problems was part of what inspired him to rally fellow residents to donate some of the proceeds. The donations will be used as seed funding to establish an endowed SIP Fund to set up the programme. The fund will support all projects under the programme. This could be the first time that a concerted effort has been made by residents of an en bloc sale to donate part of the proceeds to a social cause.
At the donor appreciation event on 25 September organised by FASS, Dean Professor Robbie Goh shared that he had long wanted to start such a social incubator programme. “We have a social work department in FASS — one that has long played an important role in training social workers, providing leadership in the social work and volunteerism sectors here and collaborating closely with the Ministry of Social and Family Development, and a large number of Voluntary Welfare Organisations (VWOs). It was my desire to leverage on this programme by creating a hothouse or incubator for individuals to come together and devise innovative responses to prevailing social welfare needs in Singapore, guided by and drawing on the expertise in the social work department and elsewhere in NUS,” he said.
Prof Goh added that the programme will allow students to come together and devise innovative solutions to address social welfare needs in Singapore. “We are grateful to Col. (Ret.) Chopra and the 80 former Normanton Park estate residents for their generosity and public spiritedness. This has enabled us to start this unique programme, which nurtures the spirit of social enterprise, encourages the use of technology in social welfare, and allows NUS students to work in multi-disciplinary teams and partner with charitable organisations,” he said.
Guest-of-Honour for the event Mr Desmond Lee, Minister for Social and Family Development said that the programme comes at a perfect time. “A time where through transforming our social safety nets, we are able to have a group of Singaporeans who have benefited but who then now want to benefit future generations of Singaporeans. Not a one-off gift that is then spent but in creating a sustainable system for thinking out of the box to tackle the problems that we face today and the problems that we are going to face very soon, tomorrow,” he said.
Adding that innovation cannot be done in isolation, Mr Lee emphasised the importance of partnerships between all the organisations involved, including government agencies, charities and social service agencies. “All of these partnerships will require the support of innovative thinking to be able to make that transformation — make that leap so that Singapore is not just proud of our economy, proud of our city and skyline, proud of our people but we're also proud of the social safety nets we have in place. To ensure that when people falter into difficulty and crisis, we have the best system that can be put into place to help them to pick up and to help them, if not the next generation, to succeed in this city state of ours,” he said.
A four-member committee has been established to oversee and design the programme. The committee will be co-chaired by Associate Professor Esther Goh, Head of NUS Social Work, Dr Alex Lee from NUS Social Work, together with NUS Communications and New Media Dr Elmie Nekmat; and advised by NUS Deputy President (Innovation & Enterprise) Professor Freddy Boey.
Col. (Ret.) Chopra said that the 81 former Normanton Park residents hope that others, including companies who have made or will make a profit from the sale of their properties through en bloc or otherwise, will also consider making a gift to the SIP Fund. “It is our hope that this initiative inspires other non-property related contributions as well. The Fund will be used to provide support to worthy student projects through the NUS FASS Social Incubator Programme. Through this programme, we hope that students will have the required resources to make a difference and learn to be more socially conscious, responsible and better aware of the underprivileged, and in turn help nurture the next generation of talented youths who are committed to making society a better place,” he added.
See press release.